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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent: Reflections on Time

For Advent, a group of those in formation for the priesthood here in the Episcopal Church in CT will be offering daily reflections on time. I have seen some of these reflections, and they are thought provoking and inspiring. I hope you will join me in following their blog for Advent:

Advent Blessings!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Learning Inside the Box

It is a little before 5 on a Wednesday morning, and I am driving through the dark streets of West Hartford. There are very few cars on the road. Few of us crazy enough to be ought and about. Where would one be going at such an ungodly hour? Well, it is time to come clean. I have caught the bug: I do CrossFit. 

If you had told me a few years ago that I would be getting up in the pitch black to go and lift weights and do push ups, I would have given you quite a quizzical stare. I like my sleep (a lot), and given my own medical history, I didn’t think I would ever be lifting anything heavier than my toddler.

Now, you are probably thinking, "What does Cross Fit have to do with church or ministry or formation?” Good question. Actually I think it has a fair amount to do. And I am not the only one. Just Google CrossFit and Church. Quite a number of articles and blog entries have been written about it in recent months. Even in The Washington Post.

Let me start by sharing my own story and how I have come to love CrossFit. 

When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. The year of chemotherapy and the numerous surgeries that followed taught me a lot about my body and left it permanently changed. The tumor was in my left collarbone, and so, after the chemo shrunk the tumor, they removed my left collarbone. Because of the mobile nature of this bone, there is not yet (nor may there be in my lifetime) the technology to replace this bone. They cannot put a rod or a donor bone in the way they would if it were a vertical leg or arm bone. This means all the muscles in my left shoulder are now attached to each other rather than my collarbone, which means I don’t have the same skeletal stability in my shoulder that most people do. For instance, I cannot just align my skeleton and “rest” in plank position. 

On top of that one of my chemo drugs can have long term effects on my heart and so my doctors have been cautious about how much anaerobic exercise I do. Can you see why I might be skeptical of doing something that involved lifting 50 pounds above my head?

Over the years, I have sought out fitness options that help to strengthen my shoulders and to just keep me in good shape. I have done yoga and rowing. Both of those were great in many ways, but somehow they weren’t exactly the right fit. Then I started working for a bishop who is passionate about CrossFit. Listening to his stories got me intrigued. Then there was a Groupon for a Box (what you call a CrossFit gym) in my town . . . and so, I tried it a bit of a year ago and haven’t looked back. 

I realize CrossFit is not and will not be for everyone, and I must say it has provided some remarkable personal and professional lessons for me. I think one of the biggest reasons I have stuck with CrossFit (beyond the fact that I am probably in the best physical shape I have ever been and that feels good) is that it has changed my definition of what is possible. Given my medical history, I was very cautious about what I might be able to do in CrossFit, but from the day I started my coaches have found ways to scale and modify workouts. They always ensure that I can do something that is challenging, but never harmful or dangerous for me. When I started CrossFit, picking up my three year old was enough of a challenge. Today I can deadlift more than my own body weight, and I can lift 50 pounds above my head. I still can’t do a pull up, but I have faith that I will get there. My slow and steady progress over the past year has taught me to trust the process, to trust my coaches and to keep trying. I thought cancer had put limits on my body that could never be overcome. Amazingly they can. 

Needless to say, I cannot help but wonder what this model of self-transformation has to teach me as a leader in the Church. What does it look like to enable the same kind of spiritual transformation in those who love and follow Jesus? Do we do this as a Church? How might we do it better? 

I certainly think that the Christian life is an invitation to transformation, an invitation to live our lives in new ways, an invitation to redefine what is possible for ourselves and for the world around us. But how well are we living into that invitation? Are we deliberately engaged in transformation? How might we make church (and by church I mean the gathered community of followers of Jesus not just a building or Sunday morning worship) something that people will wake up in the dark to do because it brings them joy? As ordained leaders, as “coaches,” how can we better encourage and empower those with whom we have the privilege of serving? How might we give them the tools and the skills to test their own limits (in a supportive environment)? How do we inspire them with courage to be bold without being dangerous? 

I don’t know all the answers to these questions yet. And I am glad to be thinking about them. I do know that it is about taking small steps and doing something little each day. I also know it is about doing it community with good teachers. I know that if I can take the long view and trust the process and the leading of the Holy Spirit, I will end up somewhere I did not think was possible. I trust this is true for us as Church too. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Of Bishops, DUCs and a table . . .

Last weekend, a group of eleven postulants for the diaconate gathered together to officially begin their formation program. The story of this wonderful weekend and how it came to be is rather interesting, and it seems to me, a wonderful testament to what God is up to in New England. So now to explain the title of this post . . .

None of this program or the weekend would have happened with out the incredible support and leadership of our bishops. We are blessed in Province 1 to have bishops who gather regularly and are committed to thinking about how we can do things more collaboratively. We are fortunate to be such a geographically small Province that we can actually gather together in person! As you can see above, we were blessed to have a bishop from each of the dioceses engaged in this collaborative formation effort with us last weekend! On Saturday morning, we had a wonderful presentation and conversation with the bishops on the vision of the diaconate in each diocese and some dreams for the future. Bishop Ahrens was able to stay with us for additional time and conversation over the weeked, as well as leading an engaging discussion of Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak and celebrating Eucharist on Sunday. 

Four of the seven dioceses in Province 1 are participating in this program. At present the other three are offering their own local formation programs. The weekend was led by the Archdeacon from Rhode Island, the director of Diaconal Formation from Western Mass and me (Dean of Formation in CT). At present CT, NH and WMA all have postulants in the process. Rhode Island hopes to have more postulants next year. We are particularly grateful to the diocese of Rhode Island for its ongoing support of the program (more on that when we get to the table). 

One of our postulants here in Connecticut once referred to himself as a "Deacon Under Construction," hence the term "DUC," and it seems to have caught on. I must say, this group of DUCs is quite an inspiring bunch! They are enthusiastic, committed, wise and tremendously gifted. I was particularly reminded this weekend, as we were 4 bishops, 2 priests, 2 deacons and 11 deacon postulants, what a joy it is to be gathered as a diverse group of ordained leaders. Each order is so distinct, and we are each so enriched by being in conversation with each other! I have been blessed, from my sponsoring parish in Maine to my various calls as a priest, to serve frequently with deacons. I am so grateful for their particular gifts and perspective, for the questions they ask all of us as followers of Jesus and for the myriad of ways they help and inspire the Church (and me!) out of our comfort zones. 

So the very exciting thing is that together we have 11 deacons under construction. I hope in future years this number will be much higher! It will be a wonderful day when all our worshiping communities are blessed by the particular ministry of a deacon!

A Table 
So this collaborative effort started with a conversation among our bishops and those involved in the formation of clergy in Province 1. It has come to fruition through commitment and hard work of many individuals. AND it is possible because of a particular resource of the Diocese of Rhode Island. 

A few years ago, folks were cleaning out some things from the Cathedral in Providence. They found an old table that was not needed, and so they were going to just toss it. Thankfully, someone spoke up and said it might be worth getting it appraised first, just in case. So they did. Phew! Turns out that table was worth some money. Actually, a lot of money. Thousands and thousands of dollars! That money was put into a fund that throws of income every year. That income is helping to underwrite this collaborative effort of deacon formation. It is enabling us to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to try on a new way of doing formation - together! 

It seems particularly fitting that the funds to help underwrite this effort are from the sale of a table. A table is helping to fund the formation of deacons, those who serve at the Table and who call us from the Table to go out and be God's people in the world. 

So thanks to our bishops, DUCs and a table, we had a remarkable weekend of getting to know each other, sharing our stories, imagining the future and continuing to be formed into who God is calling us to be. Thanks be to God!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Poverty and Hunger

Poverty and Hunger in CT and Beyond

This spring the Deacon's Council did a book study of Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. This is book is a remarkable window into the issues of domestic poverty and hunger in America. The conversation at the Council meeting resulted in some excellent work by our deacon postulants about how we as the Episcopal Church in CT can more faithfully live into God's Mission and do something to address the issue of poverty on a local level. At our 2014 Annual Convention a resolution was passed to promote the practice of paying a living wage in our parishes. The deacon postulants have done some excellent work developing resources to help our parishes do just that. 

Their paper and other resources around Domestic Poverty can be found on the ECCT website:

If you are interested in learning more about what you can do to help address issues of hunger and poverty here in CT, there are also some great resources through Feeding America.
This is a link to a report on Hunger in Connecticut based on data from the Connecticut Food Bank. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

South Carolina - Resources on Challenging Violence and Racism

As with many of you, my heart is breaking this morning at the news out of Charleston. Nine people dead in what seems to be a racially motivated killing in a church. How do we feel safe if our houses of worship are under attack?

In the midst of this, I am grateful for the variety of resources we have at our fingertips to find comfort and to do the important, holy work of Challenging Violence and Racism in our country. 

Here are links to some of those resources:

Inspiring words from our bishops this morning, posted here.

Resource pages on the ECCT website:

Episcopal Peace Fellowship

May we be inspired to join with our brothers and sisters in faith to carry the light of Christ out into the world and to live into our calling to challenge violence and transform unjust structures in our society.

Monday, June 15, 2015

For this week, I refer you to my post on our newly created General Convention Blog for ECCT:

Please subscribe to follow along on thoughts from the CT Deputation during the 78th General Convention!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Looking Ahead to General Convention

As we approach our 78th General Convention in a few weeks time, I wanted to be sure that you have some resources with which to prepare and follow the action!

Our Canon for Communications and Media, Karin Hamilton, does a fabulous job of keeping the folks in CT informed about the happenings at General Convention. Be sure to sign up for the ECCT General Convention E-News:

Karin also maintains a great page of resources on the ECCT website:

Some other sites that may be useful:

The central clearing house of all things GC:

Hashtag to follow on Twitter: #GC78

Episcopal News Service:

Updates from Episcopal Church Public Affairs: 

Some Sites and Blogs to watch: 

Memorial to the Church mentioned in recent E-News:

Scott Gunn (Forward Movement) blogs the Blue Book:

Tom Furgeson on the Memorial:

Keith Voets (member of COM) on Marriage:

On Marriage:

Blog from Deputy Don Reed: